by Dave Lindorff – CounterPunch March 1, 2012
If a bunch of street toughs decided to gang up and beat the crap out of some guy in the neighborhood because they feared he might be planning to buy a gun to protect his family, I think we’d all agree that the police would be right to bust that crew and charge them with conspiracy to commit the crime of assault and battery. If they went forward with their plan and actually did attack the guy, injuring or killing him in the process, we’d also all agree they should all be charged with assault and battery, attempted murder, or even first-degree murder if he died.
In international relations and international law, the same applies. Under the Nuremberg Principles, later incorporated into the United Nations Charter, to which the United States is a signatory, the planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression, which is defined as a war started against another nation that does not pose an imminent threat of attack on the aggressor nation or nations, is the highest of war crimes, for which the perpetrators are liable for the death penalty. Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of those above acts is an equally serious capital crime.
How then to explain the casual way that civilian and military leaders of the US and Israel are talking openly about plans and threats to attack Iran?
The supposed casus belli or justification for such an attack is that Iran, which has a uranium enrichment program underway which it claims is to produce nuclear fuel for its new nuclear reactor (a completely legal activity for any nation under international law), secretly plans to further enrich uranium to make an atomic bomb. Yet that is a process which, even if it were to be implemented, would not lead to an actual bomb suitable for testing for at least a year, and which would not give Iran a functioning, useable weapon for even longer. (US intelligence sources say that Iran at this point is not even trying to make a bomb!).
That alleged threat, even if it were real, doesn’t even come close to constituting an “imminent” threat of attack of the kind which might justify a pre-emptive strike on Iran, as is being publicly contemplated and threatened by the US and Israel.
The simple fact is that the president of the United States, Barack Obama, and his top generals and cabinet officers, are committing a war crime every time they threaten Iran with attack. The president is also committing a crime of conspiracy when he sends his generals to Israel, which is also committing the crime of threatening to attack Iran and planning to attack Iran. This is because by discussing options for an attack, or by providing Israel with the weapons and delivery systems it would need for such an attack, as the US is doing by sending Israel super large bunker-buster bombs and bomb-capable aircraft, they are furthering that conspiracy.
What is absolutely stunning is that this massive criminality at the highest levels of the US government is going on totally unchallenged by the US mainstream media. In an editorial on Feb. 3, the New York Times acknowledged that there was “no proof” that Iran has “made the decision to move from producing fuel to building a bomb.” Yet even so, the paper went on to warn against an Israeli and/or US attack on Iran, saying only that, “The costs of an Israeli military strike — with or without American support — would be huge,” and that it could “backfire.”
There is not one word in the Times or anywhere else in the corporate media about the reality that such an attack would constitute the commission of a supreme war crime.
President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the White House Press Secretary Jay Carney have all publicly warned that “all options” are “on the table” in dealing with Iran’s supposed threat to construct a nuclear weapon — a clear reference to their being ready to attack Iran if necessary. Both the president and Defense (sic) Secretary Leon E. Panetta have vowed that the US “will not allow” Iran to develop a nuclear bomb,” which comes almost as close in threatening war, since Commander in Chief Obama and Defense Secretary Panetta have already stationed the requisite three Navy aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Arabia which military experts say would be necessary for any attack on Iran.
But despite all the war talk and saber rattling, the only debate in the US media seems to be over whether the US is really planning to attack Iran, or whether it would join in attacking Iran if Israel were to launch an attack, not on whether such an attack by either nation on Iran would constitute a horrific war crime.
There are polls, some of which show a majority of Americans to favor an attack on Iran by the US, but again, there are no pollsters asking Americans whether they think such an attack would be a crime against humanity.
I suppose we should not be surprised at this sorry state of affairs. After all, the most brutal war that the US engaged in since World War II, when it became the only nation to ever use atomic weapons, incinerating two large cities in Japan in the waning days of that conflict, was the Indochina War, and North Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia never posed the slightest threat to the United States. Nobody was tried , much less hung for that atrocity, though a string of American civilian and military leaders should have been. The 2003 invasion of Iraq, which also posed no conceivable threat to the US, was also clearly a war crime which should have sent President Bush and his grim-visaged regent, Vice President Dick Cheney, to the gallows, but they were never even indicted.
Never have the US media suggested that these past horrors were war crimes deserving prosecution (though at least the House Impeachment Committee did consider charging President Richard Nixon with a war crime for invading Cambodia).
So why should we expect things to be any different now?
Well, perhaps because the consequences of this latest war crime in the making could have far more serious consequences, even, than the Vietnam War and the Iraq War, not just for American military personnel, and not even just for America, but for the entire world.
Iran is decidedly not Iraq. It is a country of 74 million, not 24 million. It is a country with a long history and a strong national identity, not a group of disparate, feuding tribes and regions cobbled together by a departing colonial power as was Iraq. It also has strong backers — both Russia and China, as well as neighboring Turkey and Pakistan–all of whom could and probably would rally to its aid in the event of an attack. The whole Islamic world would also likely rise up in support of Iran if it were attacked by Israel and the US. The likelihood of such a war remaining confined to Iran is almost nil.
As well, an attack on Iran would shut down oil shipments not just from Iran but from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states of Kuwait and the UAE, all of which have to ship out their oil through the narrow Strait of Hormuz. Even if that strait were not successfully closed by Iran, which owns half the width of the waterway, no insurance company would cover the tankers that would have to traverse it under threat of Iranian attack, so shipments would simply cease, causing a huge spike in oil prices and a collapse of the global economy. That alone could be enough to lead China, heavily dependent upon Iranian oil, to act in Iran’s defense — something it could do by simply ratcheting up the tension level in its standing conflict with the “renegade island province” of Taiwan, which country the US is bound by law to defend.
One would think that the magnitude of the unknown and dangerous potential consequences of a criminal attack on Iran by the US and its client state Israel would lead at least some news organizations to look into the very legality of such an attack.
But no. Apparently calling the leaders of this nation criminals is beyond the imagining of the so-called chattering class and its paymasters.
I’ll do it here though:
President Obama and his key advisors, as well as Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Panetta, are all currently war criminals for threatening Iran with attack. And if the US does attack Iran, either on its own or in support of an Israeli attack, they will be even worse war criminals, and will be deserving of the same fate met by Japan’s Imperial Army General and Prime Minister Hideki Tojo, and by Nazi Germany’s Foreign Minister Joachim Von Ribbentrop and Field Marshall Wilhelm Keitel, who all hanged for their crimes.
Dave Lindorff is a founder of This Can’t Be Happening and a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, forthcoming from AK Press. He lives in Philadelphia.